Robocalls are loosely defined as any telephone calls that are made automatically with recorded messages. Most robocalls involve either political parties urging people to vote or advertisements for products and services. This has been a relatively effective way to affect public opinion with a fairly low cost, making the approach quite popular. It’s also possible to send robocalls with a certain level of anonymity, which has led to some abuses, especially in political campaigns. Many people find robocalls to be annoying, and in some places, laws have been passed to generally curb and restrict their use.
During political campaigns, robocalls are often a central part of a candidate’s strategy. Members of political parties will use various methods to develop call lists which target certain demographics. For example, they may target single women with children, or men with manufacturing jobs. The messages in the robocalls will then be tailored to that particular audience in an attempt to persuade them to vote for one candidate or another.
Robocalls are formatted in many different ways. Sometimes the caller may deliver the message as a personal entreaty from somebody with a similar background. For example, if the target was a single mother, the caller might be a woman, and she might start off by explaining her background and saying that she supports a particular political candidate, then continue with a message about why she holds these views. In some cases, the people delivering these messages may actually be real-life supporters with the backgrounds they describe, although actors are also used sometimes. Another common approach is to have a celebrity or other popular political candidate deliver the message.
There have been examples in the past of robocalling abuses. Sometimes robocallers go to great lengths to obfuscate the source point that the calls are coming from, and they may deliver lies or other controversial messages. In these cases, the callers may not be directly associated with the political candidate, and they might be hired by some outside interest group. This gives the candidate being promoted with these tactics a layer of incredibility.
These kinds of techniques, along with the potential annoyance factor of constant phone calls, have led to legislation to curb robocall abuses. For example, robocalls related to advertising are totally illegal in some places. Another common form of legislation is to require that the callers identify themselves and who they work for in the first line of the call's message.